Say what? More than half of older construction workers are hearing impaired

August 24, 2022

Study findings reinforce the need to promote noise reduction and hearing protection in construction

It’s no surprise construction trade workers suffer more hearing loss than office-bound professions, but a recent study not only confirms it, but shows more than half of older workers are in fact hearing impaired. 

What’s more, almost 95% of former construction trade workers older than 85 experience hearing impairment.

Researchers from CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, Duke University, and the University of Maryland studied data for more than 21,000 participants in the Building Trades Medical Screening Program, or BTMed, to evaluate the risk of hearing impairment. The participants, who self-reported cases of tinnitus, previously worked at Department of Energy nuclear weapons facilities.

Safety & Health reported that overall, 55.2% of the participants experienced hearing impairment, which was observed more among men (57.7%) than women (26.8%). The participants were 40% more likely to develop hearing impairment than non-construction workers.

The trades most associated with hearing impairment were boilermakers (65.8%) and carpenters (65.3%), while boilermakers had the highest occurrence of tinnitus, at 64.3%.

The prevalence of hearing impairment and tinnitus proved greater than previous research, the researchers note, largely because BTMed follows participants after retirement.

“To draw conclusions about the risk for work-related chronic diseases and disorders, it is important to monitor workers through their lifetimes,” the researchers write. “Also, tinnitus by itself should be given greater significance. These findings reinforce the need to promote noise reduction and hearing conservation in construction.”

The study was published online in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

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